US approves F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkey worth $23bn

US approves F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkey worth $23bn
An F-16 fighter jet takes off during a Nato military exercise in Germany in JuneReuters

The US government has approved the $23bn (£18bn) sale of 40 new F-16 fighter jets to Turkey – a move that had been long delayed – after Ankara ratified Sweden’s accession to Nato.

The deal includes modernisation kits for 79 existing Turkish F-16s.

The US State Department told Congress it had also approved the sale of 40 F-35 fighters to Greece, costing $8.6bn.

Turkey ratified Sweden’s Nato accession after more than a year of delay that caused tension in the alliance.

It first made the request for the jets in 2021, but its delay in ratifying Sweden’s Nato bid proved to be a major stumbling block. Turkey was concerned over what it called Sweden’s support for Kurdish separatists.

But Turkish MPs ratified Sweden’s bid this week and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gave his final sign-off.

US President Joe Biden then urged that the F-16 sales be approved “without delay”.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 heightened Turkey’s importance as a Nato bullwark in the Black Sea region.

“My approval of Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 aircrafts has been contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden’s Nato membership,” said Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of four key committees that needs to approve arms transfers.

“But make no mistake: This was not a decision I came to lightly.”

He said Turkey’s human rights record needed to improve, as well as doing more to hold Russia accountable for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Now Hungary is the sole Nato member yet to ratify Sweden’s accession, although there have been recent signs of progress.

Last year, the US approved the transfer to Ukraine of American-made F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and the Netherlands, once Ukrainian pilots are fully trained to operate them.

Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman